A good general rule is that the most affordable training tends to be the toughest and have the most advantages. Like any rule, there are exceptions and certain training like skating technique work can be very beneficial for youth hockey players and requires a professional. Other skills can and do benefit from a skills’ coach, but ultimately repetition must come from the intrinsically-motivated player. Below is a checklist of simple, affordable and incredibly effective training techniques. Are you using them?
1. Stickhandle in the garage. It’s too easy. Get a good stickhandling ball, make creative obstacles out of anything you can find and play away. Buy a PVC pipe, roughly 1.25 inches in diameter, cut it so it’s about 6 inches in length, place it on the stick, and hold with your bottom hand. This forces you to use the top hand and learn the proper technique. Make a goal for the summer, place a piece of paper in the garage and mark off how many times you complete a 15-minute stickhandling circuit. Do it enough times and you will have some amazing hands.
2. Shoot pucks. Get together with some buddies, order a pizza and shoot for a few hours. I generally like to start by shooting for accuracy – aim for the corners. You can also have a buddy call out a number 1 through 4, with each number representing a different area on the net. Make sure to get both backhand and forehand shots in. You should also just work on getting your shot harder. Don’t worry about accuracy when practicing to improve shot speed. You can shoot into the middle of the net. But focus on proper form and proper synergy between the legs, core and upper body.
3. Run sprints. Find a hill, track or soccer field. Pace out anywhere between 20 and 60 meters. Get some buddies that are about as fast as you and race each other like it is the Olympic qualifying round every single time. Make sure to take plenty of rest. During each sprint, you must hit top speed. You’ll never get faster going 99%.
4. Calisthenics. Getting knocked off the puck too often? Well, wall-sits, front planks, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups and many other exercises can be done at home. Of course, they don’t shine like the barbells in the weight room, but they do provide great athletic benefits.
5. Use development ice. Many rinks have development ice in the morning for very low cost. It’s practically free ice. Ask your coach what you need to work on and then go work on it. Go online and find great edgework drills. Perform figure-eights on both the inside and outside edges. Do it going backwards, too. Shoot pucks and work on puck control. Reserve your private lessons as “teaching sessions” where the coach is providing feedback and instruction throughout. You can knock out repetitions on the skills you taught on your own.
6. Have a pair of rollerblades? Use them when the weather allows. Put on your rollerblades, find a smooth and safe area, and work on your stride. No need to do all-out sprints. It’s tough with rollerblades anyways to do quick explosive starts. Instead, do 20- to 30-second skates with decent rest between each set. Focus on full stride recovery and full leg extension. Work on getting into the perfect hockey squat by exaggerating your knee bend.
7. Do agility drills. Use a colored tape to create an agility ladder on the ground in the garage or driveway. Grab some cones and create movements you do on the ice at a soccer field or in your backyard. Sprint left, cut backward, stop, start, accelerate, decelerate, etc. Be creative, take plenty of rest and make sure to do every drill at 100% of your physical potential.
Josh Levine is the Assistant Coach of the Bloomington Jefferson Girls Varsity Hockey team and owner of The Fortis Academy. Fortis works with youth associations to implement skill development programs with all teams, from Mites to Bantams. The program includes parent education seminars, coaching clinics and Fortis skill-based practices. If you’re interested in learning more, shoot Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Fortis on Facebook and Instagram.